Hertfordshire police are the first to add Humanists to their chaplaincy team

By staff writers
May 18, 2010

Two humanist lay advisors have joined the ranks of volunteers who support frontline police officers and support staff in Hertfordshire Constabulary - making this the first force in the country to have Humanists join their 20-strong voluntary team.

Pam Burn and Ray Owen, who both have extensive experience in giving advice and support in other organisations, started their work this month.

The chaplaincy support team is currently composed of people from a variety of belief groups, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Pagan.

Superintendant Simon Hawkins, lead for faith, religion and belief, said: “As we have sought to expand and provide a more diverse chaplaincy support service, I am really pleased that we have the services of Humanists within Hertfordshire Constabulary."

He added: “It is vital that we provide appropriate support structures to our police officers and staff, and that they can have a choice that is compatible with their religion, belief or faith. Diversity is very much about respecting each others’ differences and the chaplaincy has a key role to play when supporting our people and offering an independent ear to listen to their issues or concerns.”

Pam Burn is in the third generation of Humanists in her family, her grandfather first turning to Humanism after the atrocities he saw in the First World War. Ray Owen has been a Humanist celebrant since the 1980s.

Both the new chaplains are members of the British Humanist Association and have experience in counselling through former work with Samaritans and other emergency services like the fire service.

It is also part of their roles as humanist celebrants, where they conduct birth ceremonies, marriages, funerals and other key ceremonies.

Ms Burn commented: “This is a very new role for us in the police, but we are really looking forward to joining the existing team. Police officers and staff play a vital role in our communities and we are very pleased to support them through our work.”

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association (BHA), welcomed the appointments.

He declared: “Humanist members of chaplaincy and support teams exist in many places in the world such as Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands, where they provide the sort of support to non-religious people that takes account of their distinct philosophical and emotional needs."

“We very much welcome the inclusive and progressive instinct that has led Hertfordshire Constabulary to include humanists in their own provision,” said Mr Copson.


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